Modern Times

Modern Times

For most of his life, Bob Dylan has tried to claim for himself the worn-down wisdom and authenticity of his musical heroes, and at age 65, he may finally believe that he's earned the right to join them. Recording with his road band on the self-produced Modern Times, he's again grappling with matters of faith, love, mortality, and the relentless passage of time, scattering hard-won morsels of insight, brazenly, gleefully poaching from the blues canon and sprinkling in his own peculiar perceptions. A mix of blues, rave-ups, introspective folk, and Tin Pan Alley pop, much of the album finds Dylan in the role of conflicted preacher, warning his minions of the cruel fate that awaits them without offering a pathway to salvation. "The world has gone black before my eyes," he sings on the delicate, poignant "Nettie Moore," before adding, "I'm beginning to believe what the scriptures tell." On the mournful "Ain't Talkin'," he explains: "I practice a faith that's long abandoned, ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road." It's a strange, hopeless sort of spirituality. Dreamy, Hoagy Carmichael-style shuffles like "Beyond the Horizon" and "When the Deal Goes Down" provide a welcome counterweight to the more prickly concerns. Modern Times is a gripping hour inside the psyche of a wise man who, despite a lifetime of searching, finds no sufficient answers to life's biggest questions — a man with no direction home.

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